The best graduation party food ideas feed a large crowd on a budget. From delicious appetizers to buffet table main courses to easy desserts for a special occasion, all the recipes you need to throw an amazing grad party are right here.
Graduation season is here and the calendar is filling up with graduation parties to celebrate all of the hard work these amazing students have put in over the years.
As you plan to host a college graduation party or high school graduation party for a long list of party guests, you need all the college graduation party ideas to make it special, fun, and DELICIOUS.
I think a great option is for a family member, usually the parents, to host an outdoor graduation party with plenty of easy recipes and tons of menu options for every guest to find something they love.
Whether you're planning a huge party or a more intimate sit-down dinner for your college student, all the best graduation party food ideas are right here.
Snacks and Appetizers
Start the huge bash off on the right food with your college kids' favorite things: tons of yummy munchies.
Charcuterie Board Snacks
When you're feeding a big crowd, a great choice for an appetizer is a giant charcuterie board filled with delicious meats, crackers, fruits, and nuts.
My easy cheddar snack board is a wonderful option because it has both sweet and savory items and pairs well with summer fruits.
Tortilla Chips and Spicy Dips
Fill a giant bowl with salty tortilla chips and then set out a few spicy dips for dunking.
A great choice for vegetarian guests is my spicy taco dip which is completely meat free.
For the meat eaters, don't miss trying my tasty chicken enchilada dip.
Seasoned Pretzels and Raspberry Mustard
My easy seasoned pretzels recipe has 15 fun flavor variations. You could easily prep 2 - 3 different flavors and have a pretzle dipping station.
Add a big batch of my homemade raspberry mustard dip, a mason jar of my cilantro ranch dressing, and a small crockpot filled with melted queso.
Make Ahead Cold Dips for Parties
Want a different dip for your tortilla chips? Or maybe you prefer to serve crackers, pita crisps, or bagel chips.
Try one of these easy make ahead cold dips for parties.
Bang Bang Shrimp or Chicken
Your party guests will help those college years go out with a BANG! and serve a bowl of bang bang sauce with a big platter of baked chicken nuggets or roasted shrimp!
Cream Cheese Pinwheels
I dare you to eat just one of these cream cheese pinwheels made with seasoned cheddar cheese filling and veggies!
Every time I make a big batch of my firecracker pinwheels, they simply disappear!
Bacon Cheddar Ranch Pinwheels
Bite sized pinwheel sandwiches are always a hit at parties. They work as a delicious appetizer or very light main dish on the buffet table.
My bacon cheddar ranch pinwheels are rolled with crescent dough and chicken for a simple recipe you'll love.
Crescent Roll Veggie Pizza
When I was in college, we'd all fight over who got to bring the crescent roll veggie pizza to the next party!
This easy recipe is always a hit with a crowd because you can slice it into bite sized smaller pieces for serving on appetizer platters.
Balance all the savory appetizers with a sweet and juicy fresh fruit salad. Toss the fruits with lemon juice to keep them fresh and serve them alongside my creamy piña colada fruit dip.
Or, mix things up and try serving my strawberry mango salsa with cinnamon pita chips.
If your party will be indoors, my creamy grape salad with brown sugar and pecans is always a great choice.
By now the guests at your outdoor graduation party will have really worked up an appetite.
Time to bring on the main course! This is an opportunity to have a little more fun with your meal plan.
Even if a food truck isn't in your budget, you could mimic that same festive feeling by keeping your main meals interactive and customizable for different preferences.
Hot Dogs and Chili Bar
This is one of my favorite food bar ideas! Imagine a playful chili dog hot dog bar with all the fixin's.
You could keep my ground beef chili in a crockpot on the buffet table so it stays warm.
Then offer up shredded cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, chopped green onions, and a big bowl of my favorite chow chow relish.
Fact: Big kids love little sandwiches. Why not host a cheeseburger slider bar?
This total crowd pleaser would include platters of various sliced cheeses, piles of peppered bacon strips, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, lettuces, and all the burger condiments like ketchup and mustard.
If grilling burgers isn't your thing, the perfect way to serve a lot of sliders is to bake them up on large pans in the oven.
My easy BBQ chicken sliders or Hawaiian roll ham and cheese sliders are always a huge hit for a special occasion.
We all know that college kids consider pizza to be it's very own food group! Why not embrace their favorite dish and host a huge pizza bar!
You could order pizzas from their favorite college delivery spot or spoil them with a few easy homemade pizzas in a variety of fun flavors.
With just two batches of my easy bread maker pizza dough, you could make all four of these easy pizza recipes:
Slice up my easy buffalo chicken flatbread, barbeque chicken pizza, a chicken spinach alfredo pizza, but always have a plain classic cheese pizza for the vegetarians just in case!
If large pizzas seem like too much work, you could always prep several batches of my homemade pizza rolls with various fillings. They freeze well and can be warmed in the oven on big trays before serving.
A classic graduation party idea is to host an outdoor barbecue party. The perfect choice for the menu? Pulled pork served as sandwiches or classic barbecue platters.
Drizzle this sweet BBQ sauce over the top and don't forget the vinegar based carrot apple salad slaw.
Pop big batches of corn on the cob into a slowcooker to keep warm and add a batch of the potato salad!
Make a big batch of meaty potato fillings to keep in a crockpot on the buffet table. Serve big platters of baked potatoes and let the guests top their own potato with chicken taco chili, classic sloppy joes mix, or a pepper and onions Philly cheesesteak sloppy joe mix.
Add big bowls of shredded cheese, containers of sour cream, and chopped green onions for garnishing the potato bar.
Walking Taco Bar
Pair a big Crockpot filled with warm taco filling like a premade batch of my Instant Pot Mexican shredded chicken or these easy Crockpot chicken tacos.
Then set out an assortment of salsa options, shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions, and big platters of individual snack bags of Frito corn chips or tortilla chips for a walking taco bar.
It is always considerate to remember party guests who may have a different food preference.
Whether or not you have a vegetarian attending your grad party, these fresh pasta salads are the best food for filling out a menu.
My zest lemon orzo salad has fresh summery tomatoes and dill. The warm couscous salad can be served at room temperature if you need and is filled with oranges and lots of garden veggies.
My chicken pasta salad with grapes was made for a crowd and serves a huge batch. For the vegetarians, just omit the chicken. There's plenty of fruit, pasta, and veggies to make this a very filling option.
An essential element for ALL graduation parties is to stock up on plenty of beverages for your guests.
Fill big coolers with plenty of cans of soda, selzers, and water bottles so everyone stays hydrated.
But if you want to make things feel extra special and festive, plan to have big pitchers of my easy strawberry lemonade or this fantastic rosemary peach lemonade.
HINT: Both of the lemonades could be turned into more adult beverages with a little spike if you desire! Or add a pitcher of iced tea for Arnold Palmers.
At last we come to the easy way you'll send your guests home from your unforgettable event: serve them an easy dessert to end the grad party on the sweetest note.
Since there are so many graduation parties for the students to attend during graduation season, you may find that some guests pop in for just a drink and a bite before they need to head on to the next bash.
Keep your desserts grab-and-go friendly so they can be enjoyed together quickly or taken on the run to the next fun event.
Ice Cream Sundae Bar
Perfect for a warm weather outdoor graduation party, plan to buy big tubs of vanilla ice cream and host an ice cream sundae bar with plenty of fun toppings.
If you want more of a *wow* dessert, you could plan my easy ice cream sandwich cake and customize the sprinkles with the colors of the graduate's school.
Milk & Cookies Bar
They may be your graduate but they'll always be your baby.
Display a photo board of your graduate from all their years in school next to a sweet cookies bar with big pitchers of milk and chocolate milk.
This is an easy make ahead dessert idea. You could bake the cookies ahead of time and freeze them. Then just pop them on platters for the party in a pinch.
These chocolate chip walnut cookies are my absolute favorite. For peanut butter cup lovers, try my chocolate peanut butter chip cookies.
Want a little spice? Try the Mexican hot chocolate cookies with a pinch of cayenne. They're a great pick if you're serving margaritas at the party, too.
And the peanut butter sandwich cookies are just as tasty without the filling and served as a regular cookie.
Want even more easy dessert ideas?
I have so many fun suggestions from cheesecake to cookie bars and brownies to festive cakes that are great for serving a crowd.
Check out all my best easy party desserts here:
Easy Ways to Decorate the Food Table
Now that your menu is all set, it is time to consider the party decor for a moment.
Decorating for a college graduation party is easy peasy--simply use the school colors as your inspiration.
Stock up on pennants, paper party supplies like plates and napkins, and balloons in the school colors. You could even display a pair of number balloons for the class year.
Frame school photos of the graduate and tuck them on to the food tables all around the party.
Fill vases of budget-friendly Trader Joe's flowers in the color palette to use as a simple centerpiece.
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